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Turning Life’s Messes Into Successes

Yesterday, I went boogie boarding with a friend, my credit cards and all our money tucked into a new, waterproof fanny pack. That’s right a one-piece suit, SPF 30 slathered body and fanny pack – hot!  After catching a fantastic wave and riding it to shore, I discovered the fanny pack hadn’t made it. It was dinner time and I had no money. A few miles from home, we were hungry, sandy, and broke. No Uber for us.
Source: cc-by-2.0
At first I panicked, but as we began our journey home, we stumbled a walkway with gorgeous gardens. Though I’ve lived in Venice Beach for 20 years, I had never known about this incredible street. Some people we ran into told us about their cats, their families, and their lives. Normally, I’m in a rush and this would annoy me. But tonight, I made new friends in the neighborhood that I can borrow stuff from. Then it got even better -- the fancy hot dog stand gave us free samples!  We got thirsty and since it was on 7/11 – 7/11 was giving out free Slushies! Free! What had been a mess turned into a wonderful life affirming adventure. Plus there was extra exercise. In addition to losing money, I lost weight!
As I wrote in my book, “The Message of You,(link is external)” you can’t spell MESSAGE without a MESS. Yet again, I was reminded that when life doesn’t go the way I want it to, there’s often a gift.
A few years ago, while recording my book for Audible, I stumbled over a word and flashed back to the embarrassment of having a speech impediment as a child. I was almost in tears as the director took me aside and told me, “Last week there was somebody very famous here recording his book. The three days it should have taken took him two weeks. Why?  Because he had such a severe speech impediment we had to do it over and over and over and over. That man's name is James Earl Jones.”
I asked, "What?  Darth Vader!  The voice of CNN?  A man who makes a living by his voice can't speak?" 
"Yes, he didn't speak until he was eight. Because of his speaking problem, we kept redoing it until it was perfect.”
I couldn’t believe it.
Then, he said something very wise, "Judy, we're not successful in spite of the messes in our life.  It's because of them.  If you didn't have a problem speaking, you wouldn’t have put so much effort into it and become a professional speaker. You wouldn't have to work so hard." 
He’s right. Think about it. Some of our most successful people overcame difficult beginnings. The reason he created the happiest place on earth was probably because Walt Disney grew up in an alcoholic, abusive home.  Steve Jobs was adopted, disconnected from his family, and created gadgets that connect us all. Anybody notice that Dr. Phil, who wrote the bestselling book on weight loss, looks a little chubby?” I’m guessing his next book will be "Hair Care Tips for Men.” Or am I thinking of Donald Trump?  
OK… a little humor, but the point is if we refuse to let the messes define us, we can use them to our advantage. Your MESSage is in that story of your journey from mess to success.  When you tell THAT story, it’s The Message of You and lets everyone in on the meaning of your life.

Funny… or Bullying?

Comic jokes about female comic for being fat and having only one arm

In his Comedy Central special, Ari Shaffir viciously took on Damienne Merlina, a female comic, for being overweight and unilimbed.  
Here are his “jokes.”
“Her name is Damienne Merlina and she is so annoying… Also, she has one arm… I’m only telling you this because when you see her you’d be like, wait is that her or not? She had the fat smell. To wash under her belly fold, you just can’t get under there. I’m sure the one arm didn’t help.”
Ouch! Do you see any jokes in there? A joke, by definition, is something that makes you laugh. Shaffir’s material is mean spirited and identifies him as a bully, not a standup comic or a standup human being. Good comedy requires punch lines, a premise, a point of view. Ridiculing someone else is…well, best left to the politicians and to Donald Trump, who is now seeing corporate America pull away from him and cancel his contracts. True, we have first amendment rights, but there are consequences for being wrong and cruel.
Recently some established comic – Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher – have complained that colleges and liberals have become too politically correct. In an ESPN interview, Seinfeld said, “College students throw around ‘that's racist/sexist’prejudice without knowing what they're talking about.”
Yes… yada yada – free speech… yada yada – comedy with an edge. But when that edge personally cuts someone, is it still comedy?
Kudo to Damienne for a classy youtube video response. She could have ranted, mirroring his hatred or demand that Comedy Central remove his hateful rant. But, like Monica Lewinsky, she chose to be honest and share what it’s like to be the target of bullying, reminding us to consider what we say about others.
“It’s not OK to attack people based on their size or their physicality. You can be a comic without being super crappy to other people.”
I hope you’ll watch the video -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAl1vO8l9qw(link is external) and share your responses with us. I’ll go first: a standup comic picking on someone with a disability is an older version of the school bully, and older means you should know better.
John Boone/Youtube
Source: John Boone/Youtube
One of the commandments in my book, “The Comedy Bible(link is external)” is to joke fairly and never use comedy to further oppress someone who is already oppressed. Hate crime laws were passed for good reason. They make it illegal to harm someone because of their “immutable characteristics.” That’s legalese for racegender, creed, religion, and disability (and sexual orientation will soon be added). Bottom line – it’s not fair to pick on someone about something they cannot change.
Comedy is meant to entertain. One factor motivating me to become a comic was I wanted to make my older sister, Marsha, laugh. Severe cerebral palsy made it impossible for her to walk, talk, or use her hands. She drooled and couldn’t control it. Sitting in a restaurant with her when we were young, I heard others laugh at her. “What if you’d been born this way?” I wanted to ask them.
We should all remember Don Rickles saying, “They always use the word 'insult' with me, but I don't hurt anybody. I wouldn't be sitting here if I did. I make fun of everybody and exaggerate all our insecurities.”
Ari, you have the right to be mean, but even those of us with only one arm can change the channel when you’re on TV. If we’re turned off, we can turn you off.
Have you seen comedy that you thought was offensive?
Go to JudyCarter.com(link is external) for free MP3’s on how to be funny

The Non-Committal RSVP: Is L.A. A Commitment Free Zone?

Are you having trouble getting people to

commit to showing up?

I’m impressed with the two convicted convicts who escaped from a NY prison. Before you start commenting on the crimes they committed, I know they are horrible and dangerous. Still, I admire their ability to get a plan together and stick with it. Obviously, they are not from LA.

Here in LA, nobody will commit to anything. Elsewhere, people are taking to the streets to protest acts of racism. In LA, you can’t get anyone to protest anything unless you can convince them that they will lose weight and get a movie deal if they march. And even that might not work. 

I have a friend who lives a whole twenty minutes away from me, but I haven’t seen her in two months. Tracking Janet down and trying to get her to schedule a dinner with me is like an episode of True Detective. We play phone tag and when I finally hear her voice, we have to take out our calendars and check dates. There are then four re-bookings. Her excuses:

“Oh, I put it in my calendar wrong.” 

“Oh, that’s when my AA meeting is…” 

“Oh… I have to finish watching Orange Is The New Black…” 

“Oh… you’re there at the restaurant? I thought we said next week?”

What is the problem? Why can’t we RSVP and mean it? People speak English in L.A., but “yes” doesn’t mean what it should. It could mean, “maybe” or “fine unless something better comes along.” People here are as irresponsible as they are on Facebook, promising to attend an event but having no intention of going. I went to a Meetup where seventy people RSVP’d to go on a hike. Only four people came and we had no idea where to hike to because one of the no-shows was the leader!

But, perhaps, this is not just LA. When Donald Trump announced his presidential run, he hired NY actors to get a crowd together. Apparently, people only show up if they’re paid to do so.

I hate to say it, but crazy people seem more reliable. Marshall Applewhite, the 65-year-old leader of the Heaven's Gate group, got his followers to wear purple, castrate and kill themselves. Remember Jim Jones? He persuaded over 900 followers to drink Kool Aid and off themselves… on time. ISIS has whack jobs coming from all over who are volunteering to kill themselves. How come I can’t get a friend to show up for Happy Hour?

Are the only people willing to commit the ones that need to be committed?

So, if those NY convicts can manage to sneak in power tools, inch through a sewer, and hide in the forest together, why can’t my friends show up for brunch?

Or… is it just me? Let me hear from you. Are you having trouble making plans with others?

Thinking About Hiring a Virtual Assistant? Read This!

As I’ve been spending hour after hour doing office work, I’m reminded of comic Gary Muleteer’s great line: “Do you ever just feel like peeing on the incoming mail?”
Yes! If I had the right equipment, I just might.
All of us creative types know that when we get to perform, it’s a joy. But too much of our time is taken up with soul sucking hours in front of a computer—answering emails, trying to remove weird things from websites and even weirder things from credit reports, getting distracted by checking auctions on eBay, and reading blogs we either forget or wish we’d written ourselves. “Entrepreneur” is a French word that translates to “I work in my underwear.” I’m working at breakfast. I’m working all the freakin’ time.
Then, voila! A month ago a friend suggested I hire a Virtual Assistant. My very own VA!
“What a great idea,” I thought. I could hire someone in some far away time zone, so when I wake up, all my office work will be finished. It will be a dream come true. The hell with a prince, I found myself singing, “Someday my VA will come!”
The only problem was my friend refused to share her VA, so I had to find my own. Like everything else, that turned into a full time job. I posted on Elance, Skype interviewed people from everywhere with a variety of backgrounds, ran credit reports, and finally found someone who spoke English. Only then was I able to take a shower and get dressed.
Our first session was difficult; her baby wouldn’t stop crying. But, she was able to nurse and type all at the same time—that’s pretty impressive, if you ask me. (But perhaps we should have turned off the video feed, which would have meant I could have stayed in my underwear!)
The next step was training her. She had to catch onto my style, become familiar with my computer programs, and start answering emails. That too took a full month of training. While I was busy showing her the ropes, everything was piling up. That meant I had to get up at 5 AM to get work done before training my VA. I knew it would be worth it once she took over.
Alas, the day came where I could finally be free to focus on the fun, creative part. My VA would take care of the bills, write contracts, and all the other nonsensical busy work I found myself consumed by. This was the first day of the rest of my life and I rushed to my computer, excited to see my empty inbox, only to find there were tons of emails waiting for me. On our next Skype call, my VA told me that she had an anxiety attack and had to take off. This was the first I was hearing about the condition. I understood and suggested Xanax. Then I reviewed the tasks, told her to give it a go, and did something I hadn’t done in 6 months: I went to a movie.
The next morning, my inbox was overwhelmed with triple the usual content. Contracts had not been prepared, and my VA stood me up at what was to be our Skype meeting.
All she had to do was walk from her bedroom to her desk. How can you possibly be late for that? There was no conceivable excuse. She couldn’t say, “I tried to reach you.” After all I can be texted, faxed, Skyped, tweeted, voxed, facebooked, and emailed. It’s not as if we’d been communicating through the Psychic Network.
This was a mess…virtually. Two days later, I got an email saying she had had to help her mother with an estate sale and she would see me later that day. That didn’t happen. So, instead of getting my work done, I got a fully trained woman who’s out there in the world with all my passwords. Lucky me.
Now, where did I put that Xanax?

Aerobic Laughing: A New Weight Loss Plan

Congratulations to Caitlyn Jenner. 
Looking at the upcoming Vanity Fair cover, I admired her courage to come out of shame and emerge as the person she was meant to be. We have all read about Bruce Jenner’s decades of living in a body that didn’t match who he knew himself to be. 
On some level, I can relate to that. With the risk of sounding shallow, I have had my own body image struggles and can identify with Caitlyn. I know this is far different from being transgender, but how often I have looked in the mirror and seen a stranger with belly fat and stretch marks. And, like my dogs, I, too, have nipples on my stomach. Inside was a skinny, glamorous woman, but nobody else was getting to see her.
Courtesy of  Cathryn Michon
Source: Courtesy of Cathryn Michon
One of the problems was my weight. It was always hard to shed those pounds. It only got worse after I turned 50, as my metabolism seemed to have taken an early retirement. I now have to jog five miles just to work off a tic-tac I ate in the 90’s. The only things that fit from my earlier years are my earrings. Like Vegas, what goes on in my body—stays in my body. 
I’d tried every diet, every pill, even Overeaters Anonymous—which doesn’t make sense—what’s so anonymous about it? You’re fat and everyone knows it. A lot of things didn’t work, but what finally did was laughing. The same techniques I used on stage as a standup comic proved to be fat fighters. Humor turned out to be the new secret weight loss method. You can literally laugh off your pounds.  
It’s no joke (excuse the pun)—laughing has been shown to boost your immune system and reduce both stress and physical pain. It also lowers your blood sugar levels. Dr. Helen Pilcher, a neuroscientist AND a comic (no, she doesn’t go by the name Shecky Pilcher), has found that laughing for one hour can burn up to 100 calories. And you don’t have to squeeze into spandex to laugh.
As soon as I stopped beating myself up about my body and started approaching food with a sense of humor, I lightened up—literally.
Here are a few steps to help you feel more confident, happier, and healthier:
1. Poke fun at your fat. When someone asked, “How are you?” instead of feeling ashamed of being overweight, I’d joke about it. “I’m only fifteen pounds away from what it says on my driver’s license.” Self-mocking is better than anything else for taking the heaviness out of the issue. 
2. Gain power over temptation. When you laugh at something, you have power over it. So rather than reach for that cookie, I take a picture of it. I put it on my phone. Let anyone show me a picture of a grandchild and I'll say, “I’ll show you something sweet.”
3. Have snappy comebacks for your inner heckler. As a standup comic, I know how to deal with drunk, abusive hecklers. But when it came to that nasty, defiant voice inside my head, I was never so quick. I let it cut into my confidence and would give up on dieting. Now, I pull a Donald Trump and tell the under-miner, “Hey, you’re fired!” I replaced that critical voice with a more upbeat, “Hey gorgeous, you’re going to be bikini-ready. You’re on the John Oliver, Jon Stewart, Amy Schumer Diet.”  You won’t, but if you should want to cheat on the diet, you can slip in a few moments of morose brooding. 

Judy's Blog

Judy Carter blogs on comedy, storytelling and public speaking techniques, using personal stories and her adventures as a stand-up comic turned motivational public speaker. Her weekly blogs are read by fans of her books, “The Comedy Bible” (Simon and Schuster) and “The Message of You” (St. Martin’s Press), which include comics, speakers, and entrepreneurs. She is also known for teaching the value of humor and storytelling to businesses as a leadership and stress reduction tool.